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Hottius Maximus
02-17-2013, 06:08 PM
I often (but not always) enjoy films with ambiguous endings that force the audience members to draw their own conclusions on what really happened. Sometimes I think it is satisfying and intriguing, and other times I judge it as a cop out because the author couldn't think of how to wrap it up (I even caught MYSELF doing this in a couple of stories I wrote years ago in my younger days; that is, I couldn't figure out a way to have a satisfying conclusion so I wrote a pseudo ending to hide behind the fact that there was no answer to the problem).

Movies where I think the ambiguous ending worked:
"Doubt"
"The White Ribbon"
"Murder By Death" (although I know this ending was played for laughs).

Movies where I think it failed:
"Picnic At Hanging Rock" (although this film is far superior to "Blair Witch Project")
"Chan Is Missing"
"Absence Of Malice" (although it's been years since I've seen it).
"The Birds"

So what are movies with ambiguous endings that the SDMB members feel "worked well" and what movies with ambiguous endings the people here feel "failed" and why?

GrandWino
02-17-2013, 06:21 PM
Lost in Translation
A Serious Man
The Wrestler
Inception

I think all of the above worked well.

GrandWino
02-17-2013, 06:22 PM
One that I don't think worked well was Broken Flowers. I enjoyed the film but the ending was pretty disappointing.

Amateur Barbarian
02-17-2013, 06:32 PM
Memento, worked very well.
Inception, beyond brilliant.

Drawing a total blank on others I know are hovering in my forebrain.

Mahaloth
02-17-2013, 07:21 PM
Look out folks, here we go. :)

I don't think Inception is meant to be ambiguous. The top wobbles and this is not something subjective; they even added the sound effect of its wobble. It ends looking like it will be ambiguous, but I think you were supposed to hold your breath, start groaning(and forehead slapping) at the imminent ambiguity, but then smile when the top wobbles and the director reveals the happy ending.

But perhaps that deserves its own thread.

RealityChuck
02-17-2013, 07:29 PM
Note that the wobbling top proves nothing. That could be a dream, too.

Though I have a preference, the final scene in 12 Monkeys can be read in different ways.

There's a lot of ambiguity in the final shot of City Lights.

Ethilrist
02-17-2013, 07:34 PM
Total Recall (the original; haven't seen the new one)

Hello Again
02-17-2013, 07:35 PM
Twelve Monkeys. 100-post discussion of what the ending means here (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=592314&highlight=Monkeys).

Mrs. Cake
02-17-2013, 09:01 PM
John Carpenter's The Thing
John Sayles' Limbo

drewtwo99
02-17-2013, 09:34 PM
The ending of Inception wasn't ambiguous at all. The real ending was that he walked away from the spinning top. That's the end of the movie. He didn't care anymore whether he was in "reality" or "dream world" and he accepted where he was and was happy. Reality is what you accept it to be. That was the point.

K-Pax: Kind of a dumb "ambiguous" ending and it really doesn't make sense that he's an alien OR a human. Too many inconsistencies.

Noel Prosequi
02-18-2013, 01:21 AM
Blade Runner. I'm of the "Deckert was a replicant" school, but you'll get a vigorous debate about it.

TriPolar
02-18-2013, 01:48 AM
2001: A Space Odyssey

Tangent
02-18-2013, 02:17 AM
Basic Instinct

Maserschmidt
02-18-2013, 05:29 AM
One that I don't think worked well was Broken Flowers. I enjoyed the film but the ending was pretty disappointing.

I don't recall the ending being ambiguous.

Banksiaman
02-18-2013, 05:59 AM
Life of Pi as a recent candidate?

DrFidelius
02-18-2013, 06:08 AM
Cast Away?

I thought it worked, although it was a clear setup for Cast Away II, The Return of Wilson.

TPWombat
02-18-2013, 06:13 AM
Safety Not Guaranteed (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1862079/combined)
Not a perfect movie IMO, the secondary romantic plot went nowhere and seemed pointless, but the main one kept me guessing all the through ie is the guy a deluded loser or has he really made a time machine?
Then at the end you still don't really know for sure. But you can assume what you want :)

PunditLisa
02-18-2013, 06:46 AM
"Unfaithful"

Did he turn himself in, or did they run off?

K.S. Masmacho
02-18-2013, 07:06 AM
I too think the ending of Lost in Translation was well done.

Just what did he say to her? But in spite of the frustration of never really knowing, I think it is ultimately more satisfying this way; each viewer can come up with their own idea that best suits them. The main thing is, she smiled -- so it was good.

K.S. Masmacho
02-18-2013, 07:10 AM
Regarding Castaway, that is the one film I've seen that I think was perfect.

I don't mean that it is my favorite film; it's just one that is so well done, I can't think of anything about it I'd change.

It includes unexpected twists along the way, and yet still completes itself as a perfect circle.

lost4life
02-18-2013, 07:37 AM
I too think the ending of Lost in Translation was well done.

Just what did he say to her? But in spite of the frustration of never really knowing, I think it is ultimately more satisfying this way; each viewer can come up with their own idea that best suits them. The main thing is, she smiled -- so it was good.

It's been a while since I've seen it, and I loved the film, but was the ending really ambiguous? True we don't know what he said, but I was under the impression he was going home and getting on with his life, and that was the ending. The unknown phrase didn't make the ending ambiguous. Again, it's been a while, so please correct me if I'm misremembering.

CalMeacham
02-18-2013, 07:40 AM
Because a sequel later came out, the ending was no longer ambiguous, but when The French Connection first came out, it wasn't entirely clear what happened at the end. Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle was chasing drug kingpin Charnier, and the last sound you hear is a gunshot, with no explanation.


An epilog says that Charnier got away, which looks like studio tampering. Apparently in some TV prints, Doyle says that he's "going to get Charnier if it takes the rest of my life". There was much discussion at the time about what that fional shot meant (did someone else get shot? Was it frustration? Did he actually shoot Charnier and not tell anyone?)


Three yrears later The French Connection II came out, with Carnier definitely alive at the beginning. Doyle (Spoiler) did shoot him dead at the end, so I guess it didn't take him the rest of his life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_French_Connection_(film)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Connection_II

Snarky_Kong
02-18-2013, 08:12 AM
Memento, worked very well.
Inception, beyond brilliant.

Drawing a total blank on others I know are hovering in my forebrain.

What's ambiguous about Memento?

I don't get people arguing that Inception wasn't ambiguous. Ok, so the point is that he doesn't care whether or not he's in reality. That doesn't change a thing about whether it's ambiguous. Even if it's irrelevant whether or not the top falls, you don't know if it did. Ambiguous.

Bag of Mostly Water
02-18-2013, 08:24 AM
The ending of American Beauty (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0169547/) left a key point ambiguous.

MacCat
02-18-2013, 09:11 AM
Although a thread about endings, a Sopranos ending spoiler alert

The ending of The Sopranos was very ambiguous, prompting reactions that ranged from positive to extremely negative. I was okay with it, but not with the cut to static. Had they instead simply rolled the credits, the ambiguity would have been at least thought provoking, if not satisfying. The static, at a time of intense drama just took me out of the story, instantaneous first thought being WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TV?!? Second almost instantaneous thought was sabotage, until the credits rolling made me realize that was really the end.

A terrible and unnecessary distraction/interruption to one of the most highly anticipated finales ever.

Jas09
02-18-2013, 09:28 AM
What's ambiguous about Memento?Plenty.Was there really a Sammy Jankiss? Did Leonard really kill the "right" John G. a long time ago? How much of what Teddy said was the truth? Did Leonard kill his wife after the attack with insulin or was she actually killed during the attack like he thinks?

GrandWino
02-18-2013, 10:30 AM
One that I don't think worked well was Broken Flowers. I enjoyed the film but the ending was pretty disappointing.

I don't recall the ending being ambiguous.

Sure it was... Did Bill Murray's character really have a son or was it all a lie by a pissed off ex-girlfriend? The boy he meets at the end isn't his kid, as he thinks he might be, but then we see another boy watching him from a car as it drives away. If he did have a kid, was that him?

The movie's point isn't about whether or not he actually has a kid but rather the journey he goes on when he thinks he might, so it doesn't matter either way but we never really know.

Robot Arm
02-18-2013, 12:09 PM
Another TV series, One Foot in the Grave, which ran for several series in Britain. It's about a retired couple, Victor Meldrew and his wife, who seem to be almost cursed. Victor's reactions to his poor fortune made up most of the humor. The last episode begins after Victor has been killed by a hit-and-run driver. His widow is trying to cope with his death, joining a support group at her church, and we see flashbacks of Victor complaining about recent indignities he's suffered, like being sprayed by the cut grass coming out of a lawnmower. At one point Margaret, the widow, confides in her minister that the one thought that keeps her going is the chance to murder the driver who killed Victor. As the episode ends, she's visiting her new friend from the support group and discovers that she is the killer. Margaret has the perfect opportunity to poison her drink. And it ends like this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06O_uDUHG7w).

One of the best series endings ever.

randwill
02-18-2013, 12:22 PM
I have what most people would consider the absolute best example of a movie with an ambiguous ending.











Or do I...?

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
02-18-2013, 12:25 PM
I haven't seen all versions, but the Henry Fonda "Twelve Angry Men" had an ambiguous ending of sorts. We don't know whether or not the suspect committed the crime, but the evidence was equivocal. I think that was a good example.

Other ones that would leave you scratching your head:

Planet of the Apes (2001)
The Quiet Earth (1985)

I think in both cases, they were just looking for some odd way to end the movie.

MacCat
02-18-2013, 12:31 PM
One of the best series endings ever.And just a great show. We loved it.

Banquet Bear
02-18-2013, 12:33 PM
...American Psycho. I loved how things got more and more absurd: then that ending just threw me. Loved it: thought it worked well.

John Mace
02-18-2013, 12:40 PM
2001: A Space Odyssey

If you read the book, it's not ambiguous at all. And the book was written after the movie, not before. Just FYI. It's a good book, too, and not very long.

John Mace
02-18-2013, 12:42 PM
Regarding Castaway, that is the one film I've seen that I think was perfect.

The title is Cast Away. Two words. Makes all the difference in the world in understanding it. I noticed right away when I first watched it.

Haunted Pasta
02-18-2013, 12:42 PM
Cache. A terrific flick, in my view. I actually didn't like the ending when I saw it, but then I read Roger Ebert's review. The review points out how to at least get an idea of what was going on. Armed with this information, I watched the ending again and felt it worked very well.

randwill
02-18-2013, 12:43 PM
Other ones that would leave you scratching your head:

Planet of the Apes (2001)
The Quiet Earth (1985)



Do you mean the causes of the changes to Earth were unknown? In "POA" we can assume you blew it up, you bastards and in "QE" the last shot indicates a cosmic planetary shift. Neither is definitive, but they aren't that ambiguous either.

randwill
02-18-2013, 12:45 PM
If you read the book, it's not ambiguous at all. And the book was written after the movie, not before. Just FYI. It's a good book, too, and not very long.

I think the book and movie were written by Arthur C. Clarke simultaneously.

John Mace
02-18-2013, 02:02 PM
I think the book and movie were written by Arthur C. Clarke simultaneously.

Could be. The point I was trying to make is that the movie was not based on an already published book, as is usually the case. And yes, ACC was the author of the book and the movie screenplay.

TriPolar
02-18-2013, 02:06 PM
If you read the book, it's not ambiguous at all. And the book was written after the movie, not before. Just FYI. It's a good book, too, and not very long.

I could write a book after any movie that has an ambiguous ending to explain it all.

CalMeacham
02-18-2013, 02:12 PM
I think the book and movie were written by Arthur C. Clarke simultaneously.

The difference is that the book was written by Arthur C. Clarke alone, but the screenplay was written by Cklarke and Kubrick, sand the film was made by Kubrick.


Clarke himself may be seen as somewhat "mystical", but he generally has things rooted in a graspable reality. Kubrick was responsible for the film, and he was clearly pushing for a more mystical and ambiguous ending. I think that what Clarke had in mind might not be perfectly reconcilable with what Kubrick was trying to put on film.



FWIW, I think the book does make some things more clear. IIRC, Kubrick, too, intended those earth-orbiting atellites at the beginning to be understood to be weapons platforms (which makes the segue of "thrown-bone-into-satellite" appropriate), and considered showing them being blown up at the end (which didn't happen in the film). But to interpret that as straightforward meani ng "Bowman becomes Star Child and blows up bombs" is to ignore any symbolic or metaphorical meaning Kubrick may have wanted to place on it (as in "Aliens push humans to next evolutionary level, and they get rid of space bombs", to put it crudely).


Essentially, the film itself is Kubrick's baby (Star Child?), and he'd want it to speak for itself, just as Clarke would want his book to stand alone. So, yeah, the film is more ambiguous than the novel.

An Gadaí
02-18-2013, 03:38 PM
Do you mean the causes of the changes to Earth were unknown? In "POA" we can assume you blew it up, you bastards and in "QE" the last shot indicates a cosmic planetary shift. Neither is definitive, but they aren't that ambiguous either.

The ending of POA (2001) differs quite a bit from the original film's ending.

randwill
02-18-2013, 03:44 PM
The ending of POA (2001) differs quite a bit from the original film's ending.

Oops! I missed the year for POA as the 2001 version. Geez, has it really been that long since the remake?

Accidental Martyr
02-18-2013, 03:55 PM
Blade Runner. I'm of the "Deckert was a replicant" school, but you'll get a vigorous debate about it.

Deckard. Yes, he is a replicant.

JohnGalt
02-19-2013, 11:45 AM
I'd nominate Ghost World - exactly what did the bus mean? (I don't think that's spoiling anything). Although it was a good ending, it didn't really tie things up nicely, which I think was the point.

Don't Panic
02-19-2013, 01:35 PM
I too think the ending of Lost in Translation was well done.

Just what did he say to her? But in spite of the frustration of never really knowing, I think it is ultimately more satisfying this way; each viewer can come up with their own idea that best suits them. The main thing is, she smiled -- so it was good.

"So, a priest, a rabbi and a Zen monk walk into a karaoke bar..."

Saint Cad
02-19-2013, 02:13 PM
John Carpenter's The Thing


Both the movie and the short story it was based on made the ending pretty clear.

CalMeacham
02-19-2013, 02:21 PM
Both the movie and the short story it was based on made the ending pretty clear.


It certainly is ambiguous.

In Campbell's story the ending certainly is clear. Lancaster's script, however, extends the end beyond the story's, and it certainly is ambiguous. Is either of the two survivors a Thing? Are they both? If either is, then the humans have failed.


I find conclusions based on whether the viewer thinks he/she can see anyone's breath unconvincing.

Saint Cad
02-19-2013, 06:42 PM
It certainly is ambiguous.

In Campbell's story the ending certainly is clear. Lancaster's script, however, extends the end beyond the story's, and it certainly is ambiguous. Is either of the two survivors a Thing? Are they both? If either is, then the humans have failed.


I find conclusions based on whether the viewer thinks he/she can see anyone's breath unconvincing.

The director made it clear that the ending of the movie is true to the story including the missing glasses.

Mahaloth
02-19-2013, 07:55 PM
Both the movie and the short story it was based on made the ending pretty clear.

Just don't play the video game sequel. It reveals the resolution. Not that it counts for anything, but it does show it.

The Other Waldo Pepper
02-19-2013, 07:58 PM
Likewise, there's always Watchmen.

Peremensoe
02-19-2013, 08:19 PM
What's ambiguous about Memento?Plenty.Was there really a Sammy Jankiss? Did Leonard really kill the "right" John G. a long time ago? How much of what Teddy said was the truth? Did Leonard kill his wife after the attack with insulin or was she actually killed during the attack like he thinks?

Yes. Yes. Nearly all of it, except when he is specifically manipulating Leonard's condition. The former, as Teddy said.

At least, it seemed pretty clear to me at the time. Otherwise,
killing Teddy is not the great ending that it is. It is not both the final break with the truth and the (entirely misunderstood) resolution to Leonard's ordeal.

Carmady
02-19-2013, 08:33 PM
Minority Report
Blade Runner
Total Recall

Pretty much anything by or based on Philip K. Dick is going to wind up ambiguous.

Harvey The Heavy
02-19-2013, 08:46 PM
I too think the ending of Lost in Translation was well done.

Just what did he say to her? But in spite of the frustration of never really knowing, I think it is ultimately more satisfying this way; each viewer can come up with their own idea that best suits them. The main thing is, she smiled -- so it was good.

"No one will ever believe you."

K.S. Masmacho
02-19-2013, 09:40 PM
...I should have known.:p

Nice call, Harvey The Heavy!

CalMeacham
02-20-2013, 07:25 AM
Minority Report
Blade Runner
Total Recall

Pretty much anything by or based on Philip K. Dick is going to wind up ambiguous.

Yeah -- although Philuip K. Dick specialized in the blurred reality game, Holywood has amplified this far beyond what Dick himself actually did. The films made from his novels, short stories, and novellas generally make much more of this "is it live or is it Memorex?" than Di ck's original works. There's really no hint of ambiguiity in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (filmed as Bladerunner or Minority Report. And they've changed [i]We Can Remember it for you Wholesale so much (whole sale, in fact) that it's almost irrelevant how accurate that part of it is. In the story, it's pretty clear what's real and what isn't, since it's about memory, whereas in the film it's changed into something like a virtual-reality game*.

They actually did get it right with A Scanner Darkly and Second Variety (Filmed as Screamers; some have argued that it might have served as inspiration for the "flash forward" sections of Terminator). They fortunately left it out of Paycheck. But the REAL Dick "blurred reality" stories -- Ubik, for instance -- haven't been filmed (I havebn't seen The Adjustment Bureau, so I can't comment.

I suspect that Hollywood is wired for the "real or false" imagery by the very nature of the business, and they can't help injecting it , the thing for which PKD is best known, into his stories even when it's not really there.



*Of course, I admit, they had to change it. A movie about someone simply remembering things, without showing those memories, would be damned dull, and it's always better to how "real time" rather than flashbacks. I've long maintained, by the way, that the bulk of the original film was a rip-off of Robert Sheckley's The Status Civilization.

Cayuga
02-21-2013, 01:01 PM
I'm having a hard time with 2001 as "ambiguous." Yes, I've read the book, and seen the movie many times, and I understand what happens. That's not the point.

To me, an ambiguous ending would be one that makes you say, "Did she or didn't she?" or "Was he the guy or wasn't he?" But an ending that makes you say, "What the fuck just happened?" isn't ambiguous.

Unless there's an ambiguity to the end of 2001 that I'm missing.

Mooch
02-21-2013, 01:33 PM
Does Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid count?

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
02-21-2013, 02:06 PM
I'm having a hard time with 2001 as "ambiguous." Yes, I've read the book, and seen the movie many times, and I understand what happens. That's not the point.

To me, an ambiguous ending would be one that makes you say, "Did she or didn't she?" or "Was he the guy or wasn't he?" But an ending that makes you say, "What the fuck just happened?" isn't ambiguous.

Unless there's an ambiguity to the end of 2001 that I'm missing.You keep using that word. I do not think that that word (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ambiguous) does not mean what you think it does not mean.

1a : doubtful or uncertain especially from obscurity or indistinctness <eyes of an ambiguous color> b : inexplicable

Sounds like it fits, to me. Unless there's something I'm misunderstanding.

Left Hand of Dorkness
02-21-2013, 02:42 PM
Another TV series, One Foot in the Grave, which ran for several series in Britain.
...
And it ends like this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06O_uDUHG7w).

One of the best series endings ever.
I skimmed that 5-minute video. Can you summarize what makes it such a good ending?

Henry Fool is the example I thought of. In the end of the movie, the main character is either going to be the coward he's always been, and flee the country; or he'll finally grow a backbone and accept responsibility for his actions. The final shot shows him running frantically, but it doesn't show his destination. Well-done, in my opinion.

But my favorite ambiguous ending is Pan's Labyrinth. True, Guillermo del Toro says that of course everything in the movie was real, and I think there's at least one or two events in the movie that don't make sense as fantasies, but the movie works best, I think, if the ending is ambiguous. Certainly we had a lot of conversations (over a lot of stiff drinks) about what the ending meant.

DiggitCamara
02-21-2013, 05:29 PM
Sure it was... Did Bill Murray's character really have a son or was it all a lie by a pissed off ex-girlfriend? The boy he meets at the end isn't his kid, as he thinks he might be, but then we see another boy watching him from a car as it drives away. If he did have a kid, was that him?

The movie's point isn't about whether or not he actually has a kid but rather the journey he goes on when he thinks he might, so it doesn't matter either way but we never really know.


Made even more ambiguous by the identity of the kid (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0124968/) in the car (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1979743/)

DataX
02-21-2013, 06:13 PM
Not movie TV, but thought it was good.

Law & Order SVU

Guy is accused of rape, at the beginning Olivia believes (can't remember guy or girl, but one of them), Elliott believe the other one - half way through - they switch sides. Very unsure who to believe.

"We the jury, find the defendant..."

And you never hear the rest

Now I feel like I want to rewatch 12 monkeys

Robot Arm
02-21-2013, 11:42 PM
Re: One Foot in the Grave

I skimmed that 5-minute video. Can you summarize what makes it such a good ending?The show was very character-driven. There were entire episodes that were just Victor and his wife waiting at the airport, or stuck in traffic, talking. He would rail against the indignities of life, but he also seemed almost cursed to suffer them endlessly. He was a bit like Basil Fawlty or Archie Bunker, simultaneously crotchety and sympathetic. You could laugh at whatever absurd predicament he was in, feel sorry for him, and also cringe at his overreaction to it. There's no one to take revenge on when the fates are fucking with you. His wife would listen patiently; agreeing with his frustration but equally powerless to do anything about it.

I just watched the episode again on youtube and started to write up a description, but it doesn't do it justice. It's just a brilliant blend of comedy and tragedy. Victor couldn't have a happy ending; I gather his death was known about even before the show aired. Margaret meets a woman who seems to have the same bizarre things befall her, and whose husband died at about the same time. It may be the first kindred spirit she's ever known, and the only one who brings her any happiness. Then she finds out that her new friend is the one who killed Victor. She was rushing to the hospital to see her husband one last time before he died. It was clearly an accident, she couldn't have done anything, and is haunted by the memory.

Did Margaret finally find a target to strike back against and poison the friend's drink, or did she break the cycle of endless frustrations and find peace and forgiveness? We don't know. And then there's the montage where we see all the things Victor had been complaining about, and a song with the perfect touch of happy fatalism.

Gutsy way to end a comedy series.

Dallas Jones
02-22-2013, 12:14 AM
Henry Fool is the example I thought of. In the end of the movie, the main character is either going to be the coward he's always been, and flee the country; or he'll finally grow a backbone and accept responsibility for his actions. The final shot shows him running frantically, but it doesn't show his destination. Well-done, in my opinion.

Have you seen the sequel, "Fay Grim"? It's even better.

jali
02-22-2013, 03:24 PM
Tsotsi.

ralph124c
02-22-2013, 03:33 PM
"The Graduate" ..after alienating their families (perhaps forever), screwing up their lives, and causing a riot, the two lovers? ..sit staring at eachother, as if they are thinking of divorce.

TreacherousCretin
02-22-2013, 06:45 PM
Blade Runner. I'm of the "Deckert was a replicant" school, but you'll get a vigorous debate about it.
Deckard. Yes, he is a replicant.

Yes, people will argue the point forever, but only because they don't like BR's dark, unambigous ending. Ridley Scott himself has stated that the whole point of the unicorn (dream and origami) was to establish that Deckard was a replicant.

...Pretty much anything by or based on Philip K. Dick is going to wind up ambiguous.

Blade Runner being an exception. In Dick's original story, Deckard is definitely not a replicant. In Scott's film he definitely is one.

Renifer
02-23-2013, 07:34 PM
Not movie TV, but thought it was good.

Law & Order SVU

Guy is accused of rape, at the beginning Olivia believes (can't remember guy or girl, but one of them), Elliott believe the other one - half way through - they switch sides. Very unsure who to believe.

"We the jury, find the defendant..."

And you never hear the rest

I remember that episode. Got the impression was that it ended that way because the verdict didn't matter. Whether the victim was the girl or the guy, both of them ended up suffering through the justice system and the smear campaigns of the press, and the verdict would not necessarily represent the truth of what really happened.
The episode was supposed to act as a kind of indictment to the gaps in the legal system regarding rape, particularly for rape survivors who try to prosecute against the rapists.

Left Hand of Dorkness
02-23-2013, 08:15 PM
Have you seen the sequel, "Fay Grim"? It's even better.

I had no idea there was such a thing. It goes on the list!

And thanks, Robot Arm, for the explanation.

jasg
02-23-2013, 08:34 PM
I once saw an interview with Geena Davis where she said that since they never showed the TBird hitting the canyon floor - they could do a sequel.

So, Thelma and Louise.

(They only dropped a few feet to a ledge, I guess)

Sherrerd
06-06-2013, 03:46 PM
(I do realize that this message board, like many, has rules about posting in threads older than a certain number of days. But I've very interested in this topic and didn't want to begin a new thread; this one isn't overly long and does have some valuable posts.)

A few movies with successful ambiguous endings, I think (and not yet mentioned):

The Shining (1980)-- Supernatural events? Or the hallucinations of a disturbed mind? (Or of a few disturbed minds.)

Barton Fink (1991)-- the picture on the wall is manifested in 'reality'...or is it?

eXistenZ (1999)-- "are we still in the game?"


One obviously-unsuccessful example:

Prometheus (2012)-- I'm thinking here not of the many "unanswered questions" about the Engineers that were clearly set up to drive demand for a second movie (hah!), but about the question "was Shaw being strengthened/protected/led by a supernatural being, namely, her Christian god?" That, I think, actually was intended by Scott and Lindelof as a Deliberate Ambiguity that (guessing, here) would NOT have been resolved in the second movie they hoped to be asked to make.

Boulter's Canary
06-06-2013, 04:33 PM
The Outlaw Josey Wales - How badly is he wounded? Does he survive?

RikWriter
06-06-2013, 04:56 PM
The Outlaw Josey Wales - How badly is he wounded? Does he survive?

Well, there IS a sequel...both in book and movie.

Boulter's Canary
06-06-2013, 05:15 PM
Well, there IS a sequel...both in book and movie.

I know but I prefer to pretend they (or the movie anyway) don't exist - it is pretty terrible. I never could bring myself to read the book after seeing it.

Superdude
06-06-2013, 05:34 PM
Regarding Lost In Translation, they've revealed what Bill Murray whispered in Scarlett's ear. From the imdb trivia page:

For years, no one other than Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Coppola knew what Bob whispered to Charlotte in the final scene, but on October 28, 2009, a youtube video surfaced containing a slightly enhanced audio of this part of the film with subtitles where more than 20 thousand visitors had a chance to find out that Bob whispered to Charlotte: 'When John is ready for his next business trip, go up to that man and tell him the truth, okay?'

Satchmo
06-06-2013, 05:46 PM
A few movies with successful ambiguous endings, I think (and not yet mentioned):

The Shining (1980)-- Supernatural events? Or the hallucinations of a disturbed mind? (Or of a few disturbed minds.)


One of the things I liked about The Shining (1980) was that up to the point where he was locked into the walk-in fridge, everything could be explained as Jack going crazy. Then the Outlook let him out. I'd have really preferred him getting out on his own, the rest of the movie playing out as it did, then that picture at the end would REALLY have been an ambiguous ending.

Sherrerd
06-06-2013, 06:51 PM
One of the things I liked about The Shining (1980) was that up to the point where he was locked into the walk-in fridge, everything could be explained as Jack going crazy. Then the Outlook let him out. I'd have really preferred him getting out on his own, the rest of the movie playing out as it did, then that picture at the end would REALLY have been an ambiguous ending.

I agree. Though I've seen attempts to 'prove' that the opening-of-the-fridge-door need NOT have been through supernatural means; for example, the idea that Wendy came back and quietly unlocked it, or the idea that when she locked it, she didn't quite get it right, and vibrations caused it to come unlocked. That sort of thing. (Need I have 'spoilered' this? ...)

There's also the question of the last shot of the movie, which doesn't seem to be through anyone's eyes but our own (and thus isn't explainable as a hallucination of the viewpoint character). That argues "supernatural," perhaps. Not that Kubrick was really interested in claiming that belief in the supernatural is a Wonderful Thing (as compared with someone like M. Night Shyamalan, who doesn't seem interested in anything BUT making that case). Of course the original material was written by a believer, so Kubrick may have wanted to respect that viewpoint.

UltraVires
06-07-2013, 08:31 AM
The ending of American Beauty (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0169547/) left a key point ambiguous.

What key point was that? I don't remember anything ambiguous.

DrDeth
06-07-2013, 10:45 AM
Deckard. Yes, he is a replicant.

Nope. Only the director thinks so. There's no evidence the author does so.

Accidental Martyr
06-07-2013, 01:41 PM
Nope. Only the director thinks so. There's no evidence the author does so.

In the film Blade Runner, Deckard is a replicant.

DrDeth
06-07-2013, 02:38 PM
In the film Blade Runner, Deckard is a replicant.

Only in the last directors cut.

Engineer Dude
06-07-2013, 02:48 PM
I liked the ending of The Rules of Attraction and my wife hated it.

"I started driving faster as I left the college behind. I didn't know where I was going. Someplace unoccupied I hoped. At first I thought there were things about her that I would never forget, but in the end, all I could think about was..."

*credits start*

RikWriter
06-07-2013, 03:06 PM
In the film Blade Runner, Deckard is a replicant.

Harrison Ford didn't think so.

Ludovic
06-07-2013, 03:08 PM
I liked the ending of The Rules of Attraction and my wife hated it.

"I started driving faster as I left the college behind. I didn't know where I was going. Someplace unoccupied I hoped. At first I thought there were things about her that I would never forget, but in the end, all I could think about was..."

*credits start*Reminds me of the clip they play at the beginning of I'm Not The One by New Found Glory:

"The wild pulse beat of their young blood beats out a reckless rhythm. Every girl wants her guy, and every guy is looking for..." [song begins].

CalMeacham
06-07-2013, 03:08 PM
The director made it clear that the ending of the movie is true to the story including the missing glasses.

1.) Where did he say this? Cite?

2.) If he thought he made it clear, he's fooling himself or he's lying. It most certainly IS ambiguous.

Accidental Martyr
06-07-2013, 03:20 PM
Only in the last directors cut.

The Director's cut (1992) and The Final Cut (2007) both contain
the unicorn dream scene.

Blaster Master
06-07-2013, 04:01 PM
I don't get people arguing that Inception wasn't ambiguous. Ok, so the point is that he doesn't care whether or not he's in reality. That doesn't change a thing about whether it's ambiguous. Even if it's irrelevant whether or not the top falls, you don't know if it did. Ambiguous.

I actually believe the brilliance of the ambiguity of the ending is much deeper than most of the discussion goes, the entire film is written and filmed in such a way to make it ambiguous whether or not he's in a dream and the brilliance is that the top is a red herring.

Consider the purpose of the totems, they're there as a method of identifying how you're in a dream by virtue of specific knowledge only the dreamer has. This works with the 3 other totems we see in the film in a logical sense (eg, only arthur knows how the die is loaded) so that if someone else is dreaming and places the item there, they wouldn't get it correct. So the whole point is that the knowledge of what makes it special has to be a secret. The top works the opposite of that, that another dreamer would expect it to stop spinning like a normal top, and the only way it would keep spinning is if they're primed to do so and they do it intentionally, and he makes no effort to keep it a secret. Also, interestingly, he specifically identifies it as Mol's totem. There is, in fact, the theory that his actual totem is his wedding ring, as he is wearing it in the "reality" scenes but not in the "dream" scenes.

There's plenty of other techniques employed in the film subtlely that are there to provide ambiguity. For instance, there's the chase scene through what is very akin to one of the dream labyrinths, with people coming out all over the place. There's the somewhat unsettling cuts from scene to scene. And, perhaps most interestingly of all, in the end where the camera focuses in on the top, we're so distracted wondering what the outcome is going to be, that almost everyone, certainly me at least, miss the end of the conversation with his kids that contains the more interesting ambiguity... they were building a house on a cliff, referencing where Saito was or Cobb and Mol were, in limbo.

Sure, the moral is unambiguous, that Cobb doesn't really care if he's dreaming or not, he's happy with where he is. But he's just done exactly what Mol did, he chose to forget.

So, yeah, as much credit as it gets for being a brilliantly ambiguous ending, I think it's even moreso than most people realize.

UltraVires
06-07-2013, 04:45 PM
Consider the purpose of the totems, they're there as a method of identifying how you're in a dream by virtue of specific knowledge only the dreamer has. This works with the 3 other totems we see in the film in a logical sense (eg, only arthur knows how the die is loaded) so that if someone else is dreaming and places the item there, they wouldn't get it correct. So the whole point is that the knowledge of what makes it special has to be a secret. The top works the opposite of that, that another dreamer would expect it to stop spinning like a normal top, and the only way it would keep spinning is if they're primed to do so and they do it intentionally, and he makes no effort to keep it a secret. Also, interestingly, he specifically identifies it as Mol's totem. There is, in fact, the theory that his actual totem is his wedding ring, as he is wearing it in the "reality" scenes but not in the "dream" scenes.


That's interesting. Has it been discussed elsewhere? You are correct, though. Putting aside the fact that it wasn't his totem (let's assume it was) then what purpose did it serve? If he was in someone else's dream, it wouldn't keep spinning forever, it would spin and topple like every other top does (that's how a dreamer would envision a top: acting as normal).

Cuckoorex
06-07-2013, 04:54 PM
The Outlaw Josey Wales had a sequel???


The French horror movie Martyrs has a pretty ambiguous ending, I think.

Ibn Warraq
06-07-2013, 06:05 PM
The Outlaw Josey Wales - How badly is he wounded? Does he survive?

I don't think the ending is that ambiguous and don't think he's wounded so badly it might be mortal.

Shane on the other hand(at least the movie not the book) is a better example of that where its not clear if Shane is dying or not(I think he did but Sam Jackson disagrees).

Spoke
06-07-2013, 06:11 PM
Harrison Ford didn't think so.

Yeah, well, you can be a replicant and not know it. ;)

Accidental Martyr
06-07-2013, 08:44 PM
Yeah, well, you can be a replicant and not know it. ;)

Exactly. :)

Carmady
06-07-2013, 10:56 PM
Blade Runner being an exception. In Dick's original story, Deckard is definitely not a replicant. In Scott's film he definitely is one.


The Blade Runner I saw left it ambiguous. There may be other versions which give a clear answer.

From a quick search, the screenwriter and the actor do not consider the character a replicant, but the director does. There are hints in the film for both sides. Thus, ambiguous.

Accidental Martyr
06-07-2013, 11:19 PM
The Blade Runner I saw left it ambiguous. There may be other versions which give a clear answer.

From a quick search, the screenwriter and the actor do not consider the character a replicant, but the director does. There are hints in the film for both sides. Thus, ambiguous.

Ridley Scott has said that Deckard is a replicant. The Director's Cut and The Final Cut contain the scene which confirms this. Blade Runner is based on the Phillip K. Dick book but there are differences. In Scott's movie Deckard is a replicant.

Carmady
06-07-2013, 11:34 PM
Ridley Scott has said that Deckard is a replicant. The Director's Cut and The Final Cut contain the scene which confirms this. Blade Runner is based on the Phillip K. Dick book but there are differences. In Scott's movie Deckard is a replicant.


I didn't mention the book at all. The screenwriter for the movie didn't think he was a replicant.

But that doesn't really matter. The movie I saw left it ambiguous. It speaks for itself. Other versions apparently don't, and they also speak for themselves.

Koxinga
06-08-2013, 12:50 AM
Regarding Lost In Translation, they've revealed what Bill Murray whispered in Scarlett's ear. From the imdb trivia page:

For years, no one other than Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Coppola knew what Bob whispered to Charlotte in the final scene, but on October 28, 2009, a youtube video surfaced containing a slightly enhanced audio of this part of the film with subtitles where more than 20 thousand visitors had a chance to find out that Bob whispered to Charlotte: 'When John is ready for his next business trip, go up to that man and tell him the truth, okay?'

Eh, I don't believe it.

Ibn Warraq
06-08-2013, 01:30 AM
Lost in Translation
A Serious Man
The Wrestler
Inception

I think all of the above worked well.

I won't comment on the other movies, but I don't think the ending to The Wrestler was ambiguous.

I thought it was clear he was committing suicide.

Ibn Warraq
06-08-2013, 01:45 AM
I thought Three Days of the Condor has a wonderfully ambiguous ending.

Ibn Warraq
06-08-2013, 02:13 AM
It certainly is ambiguous.

In Campbell's story the ending certainly is clear. Lancaster's script, however, extends the end beyond the story's, and it certainly is ambiguous. Is either of the two survivors a Thing? Are they both? If either is, then the humans have failed.


I find conclusions based on whether the viewer thinks he/she can see anyone's breath unconvincing.

You're probably going to hate hearing this, but the 2011 prequel unintentionally clears up at least some of the ambiguity.

The prequel makes it explicitly clear the Things can't wear earrings and Childs(the David Keith character) wears an earring

Granted I try and pretend it doesn't exist.

DrDeth
06-08-2013, 11:13 AM
The Blade Runner I saw left it ambiguous. There may be other versions which give a clear answer.

From a quick search, the screenwriter and the actor do not consider the character a replicant, but the director does. There are hints in the film for both sides. Thus, ambiguous.


None of the films give “a clear” answer, it's always ambiguous. As the Director came up with newer edits, each made it more likely. The “unicorn” scene, altho probative, is hardly rock solid.

Of course- maybe everyone is a replicant. :eek:

DCnDC
06-08-2013, 12:30 PM
I won't comment on the other movies, but I don't think the ending to The Wrestler was ambiguous.

I thought it was clear he was committing suicide.

That's how I saw it as well.

I will add to the list:

The Grey

If you wait until after the credits there is a very brief scene (a few seconds) showing Neeson's character resting his head on an apparently defeated alpha wolf, but it still remains ambiguous as to whether Neeson ultimately escapes the woods or even survives that fight.

Ethilrist
06-08-2013, 03:52 PM
I think the sheer number of times people have gone back and forth on Blade Runner in this thread alone qualifies it as an ambiguous ending, regardless of what was said to whom.

irritant
06-08-2013, 05:12 PM
The Conversation
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Zodiac

Deckard's a replicant if Greedo shot first.

Wolf333
06-08-2013, 05:33 PM
I don't think the ending is that ambiguous and don't think he's wounded so badly it might be mortal.

Shane on the other hand(at least the movie not the book) is a better example of that where its not clear if Shane is dying or not(I think he did but Sam Jackson disagrees).

Kevin Spacey is on your side.

BigT
06-08-2013, 05:51 PM
Eh, I don't believe it.

Yeah. Why would she smile? Unless he told it like a joke or something. But that would only be funny to the actress, not the character, so we'd have to take it as just goofing off and irrelevant to what "actually" happened.

zbuzz
06-08-2013, 08:58 PM
Although a thread about endings, a Sopranos ending spoiler alert

The ending of The Sopranos was very ambiguous, prompting reactions that ranged from positive to extremely negative. I was okay with it, but not with the cut to static. Had they instead simply rolled the credits, the ambiguity would have been at least thought provoking, if not satisfying. The static, at a time of intense drama just took me out of the story, instantaneous first thought being WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TV?!? Second almost instantaneous thought was sabotage, until the credits rolling made me realize that was really the end.

A terrible and unnecessary distraction/interruption to one of the most highly anticipated finales ever.

The Sopranos ended with a cut to a black screen with no audio, not static. After about 10 seconds of black, they did indeed simply roll the credits. So either your cable/satellite went out and came back with incredible timing, or you're just remembering wrong after 6 years.

bengangmo
06-10-2013, 02:17 AM
One of the things I liked about The Shining (1980) was that up to the point where he was locked into the walk-in fridge, everything could be explained as Jack going crazy. Then the Outlook let him out. I'd have really preferred him getting out on his own, the rest of the movie playing out as it did, then that picture at the end would REALLY have been an ambiguous ending.

I haven't watched the book, but in the movie there is no ambiguity -

The hotel is haunted.

And the kid has powers - as does Halloran

bengangmo
06-10-2013, 02:24 AM
One that's been discussed here before is the ending to A League of Their Own -
Did Big Sis drop the ball on purpose of by accident?

Superdude
06-10-2013, 10:24 AM
I haven't watched the book, but in the movie there is no ambiguity -

The hotel is haunted.

And the kid has powers - as does Halloran

I'm sure you're aware that King has written a sequel, Dr. Sleep.

bengangmo
06-10-2013, 09:56 PM
Wasn't aware -

but now I am going to have to look for it.

Ashley Pomeroy
06-11-2013, 05:52 PM
Two-Lane Blacktop springs to mind - the entire second half is essentially a long, ambiguous ending. It's a metaphor for America or something. I suppose for an ambiguous ending to work, the rest of the film has to give the impression that it's building up to something. Otherwise I could pick e.g. Fellini's Satyricon, which is two hours of ambiguity. The ending is ambiguous (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7i-4sckKTDA&t=120m0s), but no more so than the rest of the film. Robert Altman's films often had ambiguous endings - Nashville, Short Cuts, 3 Women etc - but really they didn't have endings, they just stopped.

When I think of ambiguous endings I think of New Hollywood, Five Easy Pieces and so forth. Deliverance is another one that comes to mind, although it wasn't quite New Hollywood. Did they kill one of the assailants, or just a random mountain man? Is his body going to float up to the surface of the lake, just like in the dream, or not? Manhattan and Annie Hall both come to a stop, but there's a sense that the characters continue to live and develop beyond the end of the film. Will Woody Allen hook up with Muriel Hemingway when she gets back from Yerp? In lots of films it feels that the characters were conjured purely to tell a single story, and are disposable once the story is told, whereas in the cinema of Woody Allen and Robert Altman we're watching a small slice of people's lives.

THX 1138, there's another one. Robert Duvall escapes, but to what? Strictly speaking The Empire Strikes Back has an ambiguous ending, although of course all was resolved in Return of the Jedi. Look, here's Wikipedia's list of New Hollywood films (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hollywood#List_of_notable_New_Hollywood_films), they all have ambiguous endings. Rosemary's Baby,

At the back of my mind I'm thinking "these people have picked Blade Runner twelve times and The Shining six times and Lost in Translation three times and have they seen any more films?", and another voice is saying "don't be a film snob, these people are probably too busy raising a family and getting by in a cruel harsh world to watch lots of films", and also "you haven't even seen Firefly, perhaps it really is that good", and "you shouldn't call them QUOTE these people UNQUOTE because it's dehumanising", so I forgive you, Straight Dope. You're individual human beings with lives and feelings like my own, not just evil robots. I guess you have to have a little faith in people.

I'm tempted to leave this post with an ambiguous ending. You know, Siouxsie Sioux looks absolutely gorgeous in the video for "Kiss Them For Me". Close-up on Avon, as Federation troopers surround him; he smiles, raises his gun; cut to black, the sound of gunfire.

Sherrerd
06-11-2013, 06:08 PM
...so I forgive you, Straight Dope. You're individual human beings with lives and feelings like my own, not just evil robots.

Don't be ridiculous. Of course we're evil robots.




Also: if you're going to define 'ambiguity' as something like 'lack of certain knowledge of the course the lives of the characters will take after the story ends' then you're going to end up classifying most stories told since (at least) the Industrial Revolution as having ambiguous endings. The ancient Greeks may have declared that Hero A was raised to eternal life on Mount Olympus, and the brothers Grimm may have assured readers that Heroine B was "granted happiness for her whole life"...but since the invention of the novel, such ironclad resolutions are few and far between.

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